The last thing the Dallas Cowboys needed with quarterback Dak Prescott out for the season is a problem holding onto the football by running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott’s two fumbles in the first half helped put the Cowboys in an early hole they’d never recover from in a 38-10 washout home loss to Arizona on Monday night at AT&T Stadium.
“I don’t think we can use (Prescott’s absence) as an excuse,” Elliott said after the game. “I’m just going to keep saying it over and over. I started the game out with two fumbles, gave the ball away and gave them all the momentum they needed to go take off.
“I want to say I’m sorry and this one is on me. I need to be better.”
Prescott underwent season-ending surgery last week to repair a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle. He was injured in the third quarter of Dallas’ Week 5 game against the Giants, with backup quarterback Andy Dalton leading the Cowboys to a 37-34 victory.
The Cowboys (2-4) figured to become even more reliant on their running game without Prescott, but Elliott rushed for just 49 yards on 12 carries Monday night with costly fumbles on successive drives bridging the first two quarters, leading both times to Arizona touchdowns.
His four fumbles through six games are the most of any running back in the league.
“I mean, when you’re fumbling every game obviously teams are going to lock in on it and go for it even more,” Elliott said. “That’s even more of a reason I need to figure it out, man. I don’t want to keep talking about it, but I’ve got to figure out a way to figure it out.
“I’ve just got to have a short memory. I’ve got to get that behind me and play some good ball and get on a roll.”
Following Elliott’s second fumble, he was replaced in the Cowboys’ backfield on the next drive by Tony Pollard before returning to the field later in the second quarter.
“Every player that plays in this league, no different on our football team, if you don’t take care of the football, it does affect your opportunities,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said.
“I’m giving the ball away,” Elliott added. “I wasn’t helping my team. I think they did the right thing and gave some of those reps to [Pollard], but I can’t do that. I have to be a guy this team can lean on, especially at times like right now with so many of our starters hurt and not playing. So it’s not acceptable, and I need to figure it out.”
Elliott ranks ninth in the NFL with 413 rushing yards, but he hasn’t reached 100 in any of Dallas’ six games, the longest drought of his career.
“At the end of the day, Zeke is our bell cow, and we need to get it right,” McCarthy said. “He’s part of the plan. He’s going to be part of the success. We have to get it right. We have to take care of the football, and that’s for everybody that touches the football on our team.”
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